Put on the Whole Armor of God

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Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

February 02, 2006
Kim B. Clark
President of BYU-Idaho
Former Dean of the Harvard Business School


My dear brothers and sisters, it is a joy and a privilege to be with you this morning. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you, and I pray that the Spirit of the Lord will be with us.

As I contemplated what I might speak about today, my mind was drawn to two themes in President Hinckley's recent talks. The first theme is the great unfolding work of the Lord moving across the earth in majesty and power. The second theme is the great tide of evil sweeping across the earth bringing destruction and devastation to all who hearken to its siren call.

The Church is growing and flourishing in the world in a wonderful way. But if we could see its future the way the Lord sees it, if we could just catch a glimpse of that future through His eyes, we would see that there is much, much more to be done. We would see the Church as a beacon, an ensign, the bright shining light of the world. We would see that we are preparing the earth for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will come to rule and reign in righteousness in His kingdom on the earth. The prophet has emphasized just this "marvelous work and a wonder" in his recent conference talks:

I believe and testify that it is the mission of this Church to stand as an ensign to the nations and a light to the world. We have had placed upon us a great, all-encompassing mandate from which we cannot shrink nor turn aside. We accept that mandate and are determined to fulfill it, and with the help of God we shall do it.

At the very same time, President Hinckley has warned of the dangers we face: "The traditional family is under heavy attack. I do not know that things were worse in the times of Sodom and Gomorrah,

The flood of pornographic filth, the inordinate emphasis on sex and violence...[indicate] a weakening rot seeping into the very fiber of society....The tide of evil flows. Today it has become a veritable flood."

This is the time in which we live, a time of great joy and wonder, a time of great evil and danger. This is our time; it is your time to build the kingdom of God. The message of the prophet of the Lord is clear and unmistakable: This is the day and now is the time to "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." This is the day and now is the time to "put on the whole armor of God."

This is my message to you today: put on the whole armor of God. To help you understand that message and what it means for each of you, I am going to share with you my personal experience with this principle. I do so in the spirit of Ammon's wonderful statement in Alma 26:11-12: "I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom...I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak...but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things..."

I learned the importance of the whole armor of God in a powerful way in the fall of 2002. The fall of 2002 was a time of stress and anxiety in my life. Some of that stress came from work, and some came from trying to be more diligent and faithful in living the gospel. In 2000 I had been called to be a member of the stake mission presidency. When stake missions were disbanded in early 2002, I joined the high council and was given responsibility for missionary work in the stake. In fact, it was in the process of working with the missionaries and teaching people about the gospel of Jesus Christ that I had realized I needed to deepen my faith, strengthen my testimony, and be much more spiritually in tune. I had been active in the Church all my life, had served a mission, been married in the temple to the love of my life, reared seven wonderful children, had many strengthening experiences in various callings in the Church, had many sweet spiritual experiences, and had felt close to the Lord. But in the months leading up to the fall of 2002 I began to feel that I needed to do more and to do better.

And so I set out to try to live the gospel more fully, to be closer to the Spirit. Partly, this involved eliminating things from my life, what I read, what I watched, that detracted from the Spirit. Partly, it involved concentrating on things in my life, attending the temple, sharing the gospel, that brought me closer to the Lord. By the fall of 2002 I felt I had made progress, but I also began to feel strong opposition. It seemed as if at the very moment when I began to feel the deeper faith and stronger testimony that I sought, I experienced feelings of darkness and doubt.

One night during this period, I awoke from what must have been a nightmare. I felt very anxious, worried, beset with strange thoughts and feelings of dread and darkness. I felt intensely the need for the Lord's help. I rolled out of bed onto my knees and asked Heavenly Father to help me. I prayed for strength, for guidance, for relief. As I got up, a phrase of scripture came into my mind. It was just a fragment, but it was the key I needed. This is the phrase: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world."

I knew the fragment was scripture, but I could not recall its location. Since it was the middle of the night, I decided to go back to sleep. The scripture stayed with me. When I got up in the morning, the phrase was still in my mind. I went to my computer and searched on the phrase, and there it was: Ephesians 6:12. As I read, I realized that this verse was embedded in a longer passage. I had not remembered that the discussion of principalities, powers, and rulers of the darkness of this world came in the context of putting on the whole armor of God. But as I read the whole passage, Ephesians 6:10-17, I knew that this was the answer to my prayers. This was the message the Lord had for me. It told me what was happening to me, and it also told me what I needed to do. As so often happens, the message was not only to comfort, to enlighten and inform, but also to assign and command.

At that moment, I knew that this was the voice of the Lord saying to me: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

As in the days of the Ephesians, "[W]e wrestle not against flesh and blood, but...against the rulers of the darkness of this world."  As in their day, so in ours, the prophets have warned us of two particular elements of the arsenal of evil. The first is "the fiery darts of the wicked" or, in the language of the Restoration, "the fiery darts of the adversary." These are the overt, blatant attacks on things of righteousness: ridicule and scorn directed at the Church, its leaders, and its doctrines; the glorification of evil and the denigration of good in popular culture, pornography, literature, art, and the media; direct attacks in society on the family, on marriage, on the bearing and rearing of children; harassment of the Saints by governments or by angry opponents, including the destruction of property.

The second is what Paul calls "the wiles of the devil." These are the indirect, subtle, devious, insidious temptations the devil uses to get hold of the hearts of the children of men. Much of this has to do with gratification of the natural man: greed, pride, laziness, a desire for recognition and power, satisfaction of sexual appetites, the achievement of wealth and status, control over other people, and the acquisition of "much learning" These forms of wickedness are cloaked in respectability or in popularity. They are presented in small increments and masked by expert packaging.

They are a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy of our time: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"

We live in just such a time, when much of what we see and hear is warped and twisted. In such a time it can seem that the forces of evil are especially powerful. And yet, that impression itself is one of "the wiles of the devil." It is true that we live in a fallen world where Satan can tempt and lure and entrap and enlist to serve his evil purposes. He is the enemy who "soweth the tares [the children of the wicked one]...[and would] choke the wheat [the children of the kingdom]" But the power of Satan is limited. Through the Lord Jesus Christ there is protection and redemption and power to overcome all "...the wiles of the devil" and "...all the fiery darts of the wicked." That protection and that power is the armor of God. It is available to us all. But to "...be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might," we must "put on the whole armor of God..." There must be no holes; no chinks; no unguarded, unprotected places where evil may enter in.

To see the armor of God whole, and to put all of it on, we must comprehend that Christ is at the center. It is through Him and in Him that all the elements of the armor of God have meaning. It is in Him and through Him that we gain the strength and power "...to stand against the wiles of the devil" and "...to withstand in the evil day..." It is precisely His strength and "...the power of his might" that we need. We obtain it through faithful obedience to the plain and simple truths of the gospel.

In Paul's framework there are six elements of the armor of God, each centered in the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is what we must do if we are to "put on the whole armor of God..."

Element #1: Seek Truth: We have been commanded to search after truth, to expand our knowledge of things as they are, as they were, and as they are to come. This commandment is all encompassing. Our guiding light in the search for truth is Jesus Christ. In His roles as Creator, Light of the World, and Redeemer, Jesus is the truth. And He has given us the way (by study and by faith) and the means (the power of the Holy Ghost) to know the truth of all things. As we search for truth in the Lord's way, our knowledge of the truth will grow and deepen and we will be prepared to "stand... having [our] loins girt about with truth..."

Element #2: Put on the Breastplate of Righteousness: If we are to follow the Savior's commandment to "...seek... first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness...," we must learn to do three things: 1) obey His commandments, 2) do the will of the Father, and 3) become like the Savior. Our search for righteousness is, therefore, a developmental process. As we obey despite all obstacles, the Lord shapes us. We are in His hands, shaped and perfected through His work and through the refining power of the Spirit to become like Him. All along the way, the Atonement of Jesus Christ gives our search for righteousness meaning and purpose and power. Putting on the breastplate of righteousness is to "...be strong in the Lord..."

Element #3: Embrace the Gospel of Peace: The peace of the gospel is peace of the Spirit born of the exercise of faith and obedience to the commandments of the Lord. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. He is the key to establishing relationships of peace with our Heavenly Father, with our brothers and sisters, and with ourselves. He is the key to peace of mind, of conscience, and of heart. Through the Atonement of the Savior, we can become peacemakers and can close up to the evil one any room to tempt us with sin, or with anger, or with pride, or with fear. When the Savior said, "...in me ye might have peace...," He gave us the key to the preparation of the gospel of peace.

Element #4: Stand with the Shield of Faith: The great shield in the armor of God is faith in Jesus Christ. When we act with faith in Jesus Christ, we have access to His power. Each aspect of His being and character, each principle and promise that connects Him to us, is like a node in a web with connectors linking the principles (or promises) to one another and to the Savior at the center of the web. As we live gospel principles, the connectors grow in number, in strength, and in brightness. The Light of Christ flows through the connectors and illuminates the web of faith. The shield of faith in Jesus Christ, the bright, shining, burning web of faith, quenches "...the fiery darts of the wicked."

Element #5: Take the Helmet of Salvation: Though our ultimate salvation is beyond the grave, we may experience redemption and salvation here in mortality through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. To accomplish that purpose, the Lord has established His church and the doctrines, ordinances, covenants, and plan of salvation. With faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, we may experience salvation,  hope in a glorious resurrection; a remission of our sins; a new heart filled with the love of God; the powers of heaven to comfort, protect, witness, and teach. Well did Paul call such salvation the helmet or crown of the armor of God.

Element #6: Wield the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God: The word of God is Jesus Christ and all that He reveals to us through the scriptures, the prophets, and the Holy Ghost. We obtain the word of God and a testimony of Christ through making and keeping sacred covenants, through diligent study, and through fasting and prayer. The word of God is like a power source that ignites the Light of Christ within the souls of those who hear it. If we covenant to speak, pray for opportunities, and work to obtain the word of God, the Lord will bless us with opportunities to wield the sword of the Spirit in the marvelous work of building the kingdom of God.

Putting on the whole armor of God: this is the armor of God. It is what the Lord intended me to know and understand that night I prayed to Him in a moment of great concern and anguish of spirit. The answer I sought is right there in the inspired words of the great Apostle Paul: "Put on the whole armor of God..." I already had a lot of it. But the message was and is so clear, put on all the armor, every bit of it. Become a true follower of Jesus Christ. Experience the mighty change of heart. Do all in your power to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Magnify your calling, and receive the power and blessings of the priesthood in righteousness. Go to the house of the Lord every week. Keep the commandments with exactness and honor. Deepen your faith in the Savior through fasting and prayer. Search the scriptures and the words of the prophets diligently, every day. Be more kind, more thoughtful, more willing to serve. Be a peacemaker. Share the gospel, really share the gospel, not just by example or indirection. Covenant with the Lord, pray every day for opportunities, and speak the words of truth and invitation in person, in humility.

All this and more came to me over the months as I sought to understand and heed the message of the Lord. That message and all that I have learned is a great blessing. It is a precious gift from my Heavenly Father. Looking back, it is clear that this gift came in what was a time of choosing. I did not see it at the time, but it was a time of choice. In an important sense, our whole lives are a time of choosing. That is what our mortal probation is all about. The broad sweep of mortality is full of many times of choice. And this was one for me.

I was greatly blessed to serve as dean of the Harvard Business School from 1995 to 2005. In that time I met many, many wonderful people and saw great courage and wisdom and leadership in action. Because of my position and because of the institution I represented, I traveled to many countries and was privileged to meet with men and women of great wealth, influence, and power all across the earth. Everything that the world offers to honor and reward people I saw in all its splendor and glory. I sat in the great halls (even the greatest halls) of the academic world, saw the great prizes and medals and honors that come to those the world judges to be the very best and brightest stars in the firmament. I was in the imposing seats of government and the stunning offices of state and saw the power that society confers upon its leaders. I was in the centers of commercial and financial power and saw wealth beyond imagination. I saw the power of the media in action and the lure of popularity and celebrity. In short, I saw in full measure what the prophets have called "...the honors of men..."

I felt the pull of the world every day I served as dean. I knew early on that I had to be very careful not to get caught up in it. And so I prayed every day that I would always be able to see what happened to me as a blessing of the Lord; that I would be able to see the Lord's hand in my life; that I would not lean on my own understanding, but trust in the Lord. I came to understand that for my heart to be right, I needed to make a deeper choice, a deeper commitment. I had to follow the admonition of Joshua in that great moment of decision for the children of Israel: "...choose you this day whom ye will serve... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." For me, that meant putting on the whole armor of God.

And so, I chose (and I choose) the Lord. I chose to put the Lord Jesus Christ at the center of my life. I chose to put on the whole armor of God. I chose to stand, to stand up, to stand as a witness of God, to stand for truth and righteousness, to stand in holy places. I chose to "...be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." And that has made all the difference.

I know the promises are true because I have experienced them. Like Ammon in the Book of Mormon, I know that through the power of the Lord we can do all things the Lord commands us to do. I know the power and the protection are real. The armor of God really is like armor. It is the armor of Light, the sure protection against "...the wiles of the devil" and "...the fiery darts of the wicked." But the whole armor of God is more than protection. It also confers on us the capacity to be on the Lord's errand in building the kingdom of God in the great battle against evil in the world. When we put on the whole armor of God, we are prepared to serve Him on the front lines of that work and that battle. We become His trusted servants, and He may use us in His work in new and important ways.

The Lord taught me that principle personally and powerfully one stormy night in May of 2005. I was cleaning up the dishes after dinner. Sue was listening to messages on the phone. Suddenly she said, "Kim, I think you better listen to this one." I listened to the message. Sue was right. The message was from President Hinckley's office asking me to call. I returned the call and waited while President Hinckley came on the line. After asking me a few questions about my service at Harvard Business School, he asked me if I would be interested in presiding over Brigham Young University-Idaho. I told him that I would. Sue and I had been talking about our future and had discussed just that opportunity. The Lord had already blessed us with a desire to serve there if asked. In that moment our lives changed. We talked some more, and President Hinckley asked me to talk to Sue, to pray, and think about the opportunity he had presented to me. The next day, I called him back and told him that Sue and I would love to serve at BYU-Idaho if that was what he wanted us to do.

And so began a new adventure, and a new chapter in our lives. In the succeeding days and weeks we had many wonderful experiences that confirmed to us the preparation the Lord had given us in the years and months leading up to President Hinckley's phone call. It is a great privilege to serve at BYU-Idaho, and I know it would not have come had I not made that commitment to put on the whole armor of God. And so, I thank the Lord every day for His tender mercies, for reaching out to us, for His love and His watchful care. And I know with all my heart and soul that the message that came to me in that night of searching and reaching was a message from the Lord. It was a call to prepare and to choose. It was a call to serve.

My message to you today is also a call. It is a call to you who would be engaged in the great latter-day work of the Lord. May it ever sound in your hearts and in your ears in just the way that Paul intended, as a great call to faith, to righteousness, to obedience, to wholehearted commitment to the Savior: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God..." In the sacred name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.